Abby's Guide to Global Positioning Systems
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HandHeld GPS

There are GPS systems designed for driving, boating or hiking. These small versatile handhelds need to be rugged to handle the various bumps and climates encountered when traveling by foot, by water, or by highway.

Magellan's Meridian Platinum GPS is a waterproof handheld (with accompanying wrist strap), with 16 MB of hard wired memory and a slot for added Secure Digital memory and storage. Its special antenna gets the best satellite signal for fast position fixing, and the multi language receiver offers more diversity. There are seven screens for navigating and the option of seeing the elevation of your route, and they are backlit for easy viewing even in less than optimum lighting. It even includes a barometer so the weather won't catch you unawares.

Garmin has incredible variety and options in the handheld field. The Garmin GPSMap 60cs comes with a full color screen easily read in a variety of lighting situations and long on battery life (up to 20 hours). Even though it is compact it includes a compass, glide ratio and barometric altimeter and meets the need for a rugged and waterproof exterior. For the ardent hiker, you can ascertain your current elevation, the rate of ascent or descent, as well as odometer, travel rate and maximum speed. The GPSMap60CS is just as at home in your car, providing audio turn-by-turn navigation.

For more boat specific navigation tools, take a look at the Garmin GPSMap 76CS, a 115MB color display GPS which has the added off course alarms, tide assessments and full integration with Garmin's BlueChart nautical charts. Just download via the USB interface. And if the GPSMap 76CS happens to fall overboard, it floats!

Garmin also has an eTrex line for both in-car and out. The eTrex Vista and Vista C are among the least expensive of the handhelds while still offering power and accuracy. The standard 24MB of DRAM for the Vista and 32 MB for the Vista C with the option of a 256 MB Secure Digital Card is more than adequate and even allows the special addition to the Vista C of an MP3 player for some tunes while you are traveling. The color display gives you better map viewing and positioning within less than ten feet when programmed for WAAS (Wide Area Augmentation System) and less than fifteen on GPS alone. You get a barometric altimeter as well as a pressure trend recorder, elevations, rates of ascent and descent and total ascent and descent. You still get all the standard mapping of lakes, cities, etc. plus points of interest including the important ATMs.

The Legend includes 8 MB of memory for extra map data from Garmin's extensive collection and very accurate positioning. Users like its efficient design (only 5.3 oz.) and comfortable format that includes a rocker button for map access. Plus it's equipped with a waterproof, rubberized coating that fits nicely in your hand. Although some complain the signal is not as strong as it should be in the city, and a "cold fix" can take a few minutes.

HP's iPaq Navigation System teams up with their PDA to offer a Bluetooth GPS receiver and U.S. maps. If you are comfortable with the iPaq, then this is a natural upgrade. Although it is chunkier than most Garmin handhelds, it does include a rubber ribbing to keep it from falling from your dashboard. The software allows you to download by region or city. You can navigate to your destination by address, intersection, destination name or even a contact list. There is audio turn-by-turn instructions and real time data so you can avoid the backed up highway and the POI database includes more than a million destinations. You can use the car kit for power or a lithium ion battery for up to eight hours.

The GPS is a powerful tool for saving time, energy and headaches. Low end options still offer basic "where am I now" and "where am I going" tools while the units around $1000 offer a depth, breadth and ease of use that will keep you from stopping at the gas station for directions ever again.

Popular Products
Manufacturer/Model
1. Garmin StreetPilot c330
2. Garmin Nuvi 350 Pocket or Vehicle
3. Magellan RoadMate 360 Vehicle
4. Garmin StreetPilot i5 Automotive
5. Garmin StreetPilot c320
6. Garmin Nuvi 360
7. Nextar SNAP Super Slim
8. TomTom Go 910
9. Nextar Q4-MD
10. Magellan RoadMate 760
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